Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ahead, Though Much Too Slow, Is Still Faster Than Backward by Anthony McCarthy

As hard as it is to make up my mind what is going on the top of my reminder list, Iraq is certainly a good place to start. For numbers of people killed, maimed, displaced and subjugated by sexism, ethnic and religious oppression resulting from the Bush invasion, for the sheer lying illegality of it, the invasion of Iraq can lead the column.

I’m just making a list of the crimes and incompetence of the Bush II regime to remind me of why I should not become irrationally angry with the certain to come shortcomings of the Obama administration. For all its certain disappointments, what preceded it is certainly worse. Whatever else he turns out to be Barack Obama is not going to run a criminal enterprise to wage wars of conquest and to loot the common wealth of The People of the United States. He is not going to trash the world for profit in what is clearly the puerile delight in unfettered destruction engaged in by the Bush thugs. We on the left should remember what it was like, especially in the years when Hastert ran the congress and Lott and Frist ran the Senate as well. Iraq, Katrina, Enviornmental plunder, Economic Plunder, Starving of the middle and lower classes, Destruction of civil liberties .... the list is too long to finish.

We should also keep a perspective on the distance in time from the vanishing starting point, to the unseen place where we’re headed. As Ellen Goodman put it so well in her last column

When we're young, we think change is a 100-yard dash. As we get older, we think it's a marathon. Eventually we see a relay race.

The point of progress we for conceive of as completion is not going to come during our life times. And by that time there will be new futures to strive for, hopefully in the direction of an even more equal and decent society.

Consider how long it has taken to get here, not just the last two years of hard work and enormous cost to get the results of this election. In 1961 Abbey Lincoln sang about the road to progress that was Straight Ahead though much too slow. It was the time before before the civil rights legislation of the middle of that decade, the road ran through that and then on. That legislation more than forty years ago, was an absolute requirement to where we are today. Barack Obama's acceptance speech shows that he is well aware of that clearest of facts.

Barack Obama will sometimes seem disappointingly centrist to me and I’m certain to many of you. But within the context of the world I grew up and came of age in and especially in what has happened in the past three decades, his election seems like a miracle. The center today is farther left than it was on Monday, that point has already moved.

Yes, it’s too slow for those of us who are impatient for the future we can see as a rational possibility and a vital necessity. But it’s not just our world. We don’t set the speed limit, we don’t control the throttle. Maybe this is as fast as it’s going to go. It’s indisputably as fast as it has taken to get this far.

We should never forget that as we are disappointed, Barack Obama’s election and overturning the control of the Congress took an enormous amount of effort and unprecedented expense on the part of the winning coalition. We should consider the achievement of this week as a world record which will probably stand for a long time.

We have to also understand that we’ve got a stake in this coming administration and congress succeeding. We’ve spent a lot of our limited resources to get this far, we probably aren’t going to do any better under prevailing conditions. This is our chance. We can get to the left easier from where this election brings us, the center is closer than we’ve been for decades. We can build on a successful Obama administration, we won’t ever be able to build on electoral failure. That absurd idea has been tried and it has failed completely. The dialect doesn’t seems to not work to get us past right, we are going to have to push on history without its help. The left isn’t strong enough to do it alone, we need our allies a lot more than they need us. Our best strategy is to make ourselves essential to the larger coalition and that can only be done from within. Outside, where our more impractical members have kept us for most of the past half-century, we get nowhere. Inside, important to the agendas of our partners, we count for something. We have the ability to point out that we have contributed to the electoral success of Barack Obama and the Democratic majorities in the legislative branches. We have that right and that responsibility. We have the responsibility to use what influence we can obtain wisely and for its greatest effect. The left cannot draw on a pretend reserve and back it up with threats. That has bought us nothing but nothing in the past.

Anyone who refuses to work within the reality around us has got to be left behind. That’s their choice. The path ahead is dimly lit, difficult and much too slow. But today we can at least see where it goes on from here.